Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PR: NLRB to Prosecute SBNP for Bargaining in Bad Faith

Well, it took nine months of effort and the SBNP continues to insist they are in the right. Like a petulant child, McCaw and Company refuse to budge despite 15 counts of labor law violations. Yes -- they will appeal again and McCaw's lawyers will be able to buy their second or third house and maybe even a new Porsche from the deal. How long can this go on? Yes, Wendy McCaw has every right to run her business into the ground -- but she doesn't have the right to continually ignore court rulings in the process. Most of us do not have that option. Here's the Teamster press release. -- Sara

The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board announced yesterday, after an investigation into the misconduct of the Santa Barbara News-Press at and away from the negotiating table over the last nine months, that it will prosecute the News-Press for failing and refusing to bargain in good faith with the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

The GCC/IBT won a secret ballot election in September, 2006, winning the right to bargain collectively with the News-Press over terms and conditions of employment for news department employees. Since then the News-Press has committed and been found guilty by an Adminstrative Law Judge of no less than 15 labor law violations, including the unlawful firings of eight reporters. The News-Press has appealed that decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.

After the News-Press stalled the first day of bargaining for over a year through legal maneuvering, the parties first met to negotiate in November, 2007. The News-Press conducted itself at the table as if the Union had not won the right to bargain, seeking to maintain the pre-union status quo in its bargaining positions and to avoid agreement, while doing what it could, lawfully or otherwise, to frustrate the newsroom employees hoping for workplace improvement through negotiation of a contract. That misconduct and disinterest in bargaining was manifested, inter alia, in its outrageous and absurd proposals that, if agreed upon, would maintain its discretion to change economic terms even after an agreement was reached, provide for a grievance process ending with Wendy McCaw deciding whether her own management had violated the contract, perpetuate the arbitrary "at will" lack of employee protection that the News-Press has used to intimidate and coerce its employees over the last two years. That News-Press bad faith and disdain for the bargaining process was further demonstrated in the unprecedented hiring of employees it labeled "temporary" - though some have remained employed for over a year - to perform newsroom work, failing and refusing to provide information requested by the Union, its filing of bogus unfair labor practice charges against the Union (none of which have been found to have merit), agreeing to meet only sporadically, its publishing of scurrilous editorials about the bargaining sessions, its misrepresentation of the nature of accepted editorial practices that have been customary at the SBNP for years, and its circulation of employee communiqués rife with misinformation and vitriol.

The NLRB's investigation of the News-Press' bad faith bargaining came in response to a charge filed by the Union in May, and canvassed the totality of the parties' conduct from the beginning of the bargaining sessions.

"We would much prefer that the News-Press bargain in good faith and reach a satisfactory agreement, than have to go to the NLRB to once again force the newspaper to adhere to basic labor law requirements", said Teamster negotiator Nick Caruso. "We have been quite reasonable in our positions, and quite clear as to what it will take to get an agreement. We recognize these are tough times for newspapers, but the News-Press in turn has to recognize that the Union is here to stay, that the employees need and deserve some basic protection and stability, and that the best way to improve the paper and the atmosphere in the newsroom is to reach a fair employment contract.", added Caruso. Summarized Caruso, "Once we have a good agreement in place, the Union will be happy to help the News-Press gain back lost readership and advertising revenue."

This is not the first time that the NLRB has found the News-Press' lead negotiator, Nashville, Tennessee union buster Michael Zinser, to be worthy of prosecution for bad faith bargaining. In at least two other recent cases in Pennsylvania and Hawaii, the NLRB's General Counsel issued complaints against Zinser newspaper clients for bargaining in bad faith in violation of federal labor law. Both of those cases settled before trial.

The NLRB has not set a hearing date for prosecuting the News-Press on its forthcoming bad faith bargaining complaint. The NLRB also announced that it would prosecute the News-Press for failing to provide annual evaluations to a substantial number of employees for last year, and continues to delilberate on several other charges filed by the Union against the News-Press, including the hiring of "temporary" employees to undermine the bargaining unit, and the hiring of an investigative reporter outside of the unit.

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Anonymous Native Son said...

Oh, great, the toothless, plodding NLRB again. I'm sure Wendy is shaking in her boots.

This is like asking the cavalry to ride to your rescue, and then getting a bunch of trained monkeys atop the backs of some French poodles.

I seriously doubt any past or current News-Pressers will still be alive when this case is finally adjuticated. I have lost total confidence in the system, which moves way too slowly to have any benefit at all.

I guess on principle, I would encourage them to proceed. But really, I haven't seen any action by the NLRB have an effect on the current situation. In fact, everything is much worse at that newspaper than it was even six months ago.

7/30/2008 2:06 AM  
Anonymous basta ya said...

Nearly all of the few people left inside agree with you on all those points, native son. Hey, they work for a newspaper, they know 'spin' when they see it, from whichever side it comes from.

7/30/2008 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Don't be totally bummed said...

native, your view is easy to relate to, but for much of private sector labor relations, the NLRB is the "only game in town." So, ineffectual as it may be, when that agency says that one party or the other is not bargaining in good faith, that is meaningful in and of itself, regardless of what the remedy and enforcement powers may be. You may recall that Wendy promised 'way back when to cooperate with the NLRB and comply with her legal obligations. Perhaps we all knew better, but it doesn't get much more profound and basic than this: going to the table and demonstrating no interest in reaching an agreement. It's not easy to convince the General Counsel that the other party isn't living up to that standard, so it says something that the prosecutor has reached that conclusion about the News-Press.

7/30/2008 9:45 AM  
Anonymous si se puede said...

basta, surely there is reason to be frustrated at the pace and power of NLRB enforcement, but the "spin" is coming from management, the only party to have been found to have violated any laws, to have lied under oath, and to have done serious and unlawful harm to real people.

7/30/2008 6:13 PM  
Anonymous all over but the shouting said...

Wendy McCaw could have avoided the Teamsters completely if she had treated her employees as well as she treats animals. Now that the union has firmly attached itself to her, it's clear that she and her boytoy-co-executive don't have the business chops to get free. The NLRB will only get worse for her in the Obama Administration. But while the co-publishers thrash around with the Teamsters, their eyes are firmly off the ball, and competitors continue to take away NP readers and advertisers, melting down anything that would be left over.

7/31/2008 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Yogi said...

all over, it's easy to question the owner's business chops, but if she and Art have any, or could buy any, they'd be best advised to use them to figure out how to peacefully coexist with the Teamsters, and rebuild the newspaper.

7/31/2008 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Native Son said...

She has owned he newspaper for eight years and has never, ever shown a sign of settling for anything that wasn't on her absolute terms — and spending millions to ensure that. You don't seem to get it: It's not the money that turns her on as much as the power it gives her.

Rebuilding the newspaper doesn't interest her as much as winning those wars against her perceived enemies, real or imaginary. I mean, have you seen how she's allowed the paper to get shredded into such a ragged, amateurish product? (Maybe not ... few people DO read it anymore).

Coexisting with the Teamsters is so repugnant to her that she would just as soon share a cave with Osama bin Laden. Will the NLRB ever force her to co-exist? How? Can they throw her into jail? No. Can they take the News-Press away from her? No. Can they force her to treat her employees with respect? No. Can they fine her? Maybe, but so what? It's all chump change to her.

She'll pay the fine with the rent she gets from that building on State Street she rents to the feds and laugh at the irony. That's the best you're going to get out of this sad situation.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make her drink. But with Wendy, she ain't even going to let you take her to the river. Never. After eight years of watching her dog and pony show, I can see that pretty clearly.

8/01/2008 7:49 AM  
Anonymous My name is Legion said...

And when the paper finally goes under, Wendy will blame the Teamsters and the journalists who quit.

And if Barry Cappello is unable to secure her the legal proof she so desperately needs, then she will blame him.

Because Wendy Petrak McCaw is NEVER wrong.

8/01/2008 9:52 PM  
Anonymous Casey said...

native son, don't despair. Wendy has not appealed every last loss she could have appealed, and while we don't know it, it's doubtful she got much out of her settlement with the Indy, let alone "her terms". Yes, she will probably have to suffer some more losses, legally and economically, and that is likely. But the Teamsters don't give up, either. She will just have to get used to it, or give up the paper.

8/02/2008 12:23 AM  
Anonymous pea suit said...

Well, McCaw has certainly settled for a fourth-rate, irrelevant and dull newspaper. Her best move to cut costs would be to move the operation to Cuyama, where the internet brings in the wire services just as clearly as to De la Guerra Plaza.

8/02/2008 7:28 AM  
Anonymous unofficial poll said...

Is there another daily newspaper in the U.S. that is managed as badly or treats employees as poorly as the News-Press?

8/02/2008 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Where did he/she go? said...

So where's the timekeeper? You know, the person who kept counting down the days until Wendy would have to take back the reporters she fired illegally.

Maybe with so few editors in the newsroom these days, the timekeeper is too busy to post.

8/02/2008 3:22 PM  
Anonymous mr. moreno said...

There are many papers with horrendous ownership -- the LA Times springs to mind -- but nobody can match the NP for its toxic combination of malevolence and incompetence. Nobody.

And as much as I admire Nick Welsh, TM Storke got nothin' on Wendy. TMS was a nasty piece of work when it suited him, but at least he was a newspaper guy, not some cancerous wannabe.

8/02/2008 6:02 PM  
Anonymous captain blye said...

Wendy is running her ship onto the rocks to keep a few union members from joining the crew. She doesn't see that ill-treatment caused the dissent. The Teamsters will have the last laugh as its members report to work on her ghost ship.

8/04/2008 7:14 AM  
Anonymous the timekeeper said...

I'm back!
Only 3400 days until this is settled. All the fired employees will have moved out of town by the time this is settled.
I enjoy the news press and read it every day. I've been reading fore 30 years now and it's as good a paper now as it has ever been.
I don't work for the News press and I've never met Wendy and I don't care much what she does or what happens to her.
All in know it that I hate unions! In my opinion, the newsroom employees and even the terminated employees could have done a lot better for themselves by each negotiating for themselves as individuals based on their own merits. Someone led them astray by talking them into unionizing.

8/09/2008 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Get real said...

Timekeeper, perhaps your "hatred" for unions is clouding your judgment on this one. Without a union, Wendy's shop is a pure sweatshop where she absolutely controls everything that goes on, and can change policy at her whim. Given how Wendy reacts (illegally and dishonestly) to employees' attempt to band together to support one another, how do you think she'd react if a single individual tried to stand up for him/herself without the support of others? How long do you think such an employee would last? How long do you think she'd honor a "promise" she made to an employee, unless that promise was, "I'll keep you around until I feel like firing you."?

8/11/2008 10:10 AM  

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